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Screwed

Whew what a week. We ALMOST got everything I wanted to done. Well, ok maybe not even close to almost, but we did accomplish a lot. Most importantly, we righted the cherry tomatoes that got blown down earlier in the week. It wasn’t even that windy, as far as up here on the hill goes, but the plants are massive and were a good foot higher than their 6′ stakes. April hulked up the plants while I screwed in some cross bracing stakes…and also my finger! I re-learned an important farm lesson, though I think it’s probably universally important: don’t be lazy or you’ll get screwed.

First off, all of this could have been avoided if I had just screwed in the cross supports to begin with, instead of just propping them up and planning to come back later to secure them. And yes, I did foresee this happening because one or two stakes had already snapped, but the tension of the whole row was doing a fine job holding them up.

Anyway, back to getting screwed…I was being lazy and not making the “long” walk back up to the barn to get the proper drill bits. The wooden stakes I was using as bracing are pretty old, and they were splitting when I drove the screws into them. Pre-drilling would have saved me a hole in my finger, but instead I tried to screw the split stake together. It worked as intended, but the screw was longer than the stake was wide and it went right into my finger! Fortunately it was the side of my finger and didn’t hit anything bad. It strangely didn’t even bleed or hurt, but it sure was a weird looking wound and I tried not to think too hard about what I was looking at. Fingers crossed no infection because a spiral puncture is NOT easy to clean. Savor those cherry tomatoes this week knowing a little piece of my finger might be in one of those pints (JK!).

There should be plenty of cherries and other summer stuff still this week, although it’s 33 degrees as I type this so availability may change if it drops much more. Looks like we’re all set for the immediate future if everything makes it through this morning. Fingers crossed!

Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures: Put your veggie orders in online before 8pm Sunday. The website is a little buggy so if you don’t see a wide variety of items or you see items out of stock, try refreshing your browser. Also confirm on checkout that you have the correct number of each item in your cart. The two pickup windows are working well so far, so we’ll keep it going. Choose your pickup window while checking out online: 1-2pm and 4-6pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the beat up tan and red barn at the crest of the hill.

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Save the Farm!

Help y’all, we’re drowning over here…in veggies! Abundance has finally come, a little later than expected, but turns out it was worth the wait. It really snuck up on me – I feel like it was just last week I was bemoaning the drought. Amazing what a little bit of rain now and then can do. I’m not sure which is more impressive – the beauty of the abundance or the amount of veggies.

I’m sure many of you will order the favorites pictured above, and for good reason! But there is much more to explore, especially in the greens department. They all are perfect and abundant right now – chard, kale, perpetual spinach, tokyo bekana, spicy salad mix, arugula, braising mix. I dare y’all to take the greens challenge – order AND eat at least 1 of each this week. You’ll win the respect and gratitude of this farmer. A couple other neglected veggies that should be enjoying their moment in the sun right now: beets and salad turnips, so good!

Beyond gorging yourself on great food this week, another way you can save the farm is by finding me a second in command farm(h)er! I generally try to push the envelope on how late great food can be grown here, but this year, lack of labor is forcing an early wrap-up. Early being relative – Thanksgiving this year instead of February? Not that picking greens in the tunnel in February wasn’t lovely, it was just a lot of work for little reward…which come to think of it, pretty much sums up farming. I miss spending quality time with my girls – I spend lots of time with them for sure, but my mind is always on what’s left on the unending farm to-do list.

When I took over the farm from Jeff 5 years ago, I never envisioned doing all this on my own. Not to take away from any of my hard-working seasonal part-timers – they’ve been great when they’re here. But I think the most anyone put in this season was 25 hours in one week. I’ve logged that many hours by Tuesday most weeks, if not Monday! I figured surely some young, hard-working aspiring farmer would come along like I did with Jeff and earn a piece of the business. Still waiting on that one, so please send them my way when you find that special someone!

Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures: Put your veggie orders in online before 8pm Sunday. The website is a little buggy so if you don’t see a wide variety of items or you see items out of stock, try refreshing your browser. Also confirm on checkout that you have the correct number of each item in your cart. The two pickup windows are working well so far, so we’ll keep it going. Choose your pickup window while checking out online: 1-2pm and 4-6pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the beat up tan and red barn at the crest of the hill.

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Labor

Labor Day is always a bit paradoxical on the farm. Who scheduled it for the middle of peak harvest season anyway? As much as I’d love to take the day off, there is just way too much abundance to miss a harvest.

Speaking of labor, the last of my three summer employee departures (Owen) happened this week. Owen is the only employee I’ve ever hired who came knowing how to drive tractor (in five years!) – he did help out doing grunt work in the fields, but his greatest help has been taking care of all the mechanical maintenance…which I’m highly deficient in. Last Saturday was Cali’s last day – this was her second summer working for me, and she is already missed! It’s SUCH an advantage to have someone like her come in already knowing the systems and expecting/wanting to work their tail off for the farm. I’ve had a number of new people quit after just a few weeks because they aren’t able to (or don’t want to I should say) handle the physicality of the work. Although I would have preferred her to be in the field harvesting with us because she’s got the quickest bunching hands in Grafton, she commanded the wash station so well that she ended up there most of the time. 

The good news is that April is back with me, though only part-time because she still has a real job. April worked full-time for me my first year running the farm, and has been filling in here and there since, so we have a special farm bond. I’m so tired all the time that words are poorly or half formed most of the time I’m trying to give direction on the farm – doesn’t matter with April! All I have to do is point and grunt and she can read my mind. Cali was close to getting to that level too! With the turnover, there will likely be some slip-ups and things done differently so please bear with us while we transition.

I can usually judge abundance by the number of items to choose from on the website, which stands at 39 as I write this. 40 is the magic number indicating tippy top of the peak harvest, so we’re just about there. Summer and fall peaks seem to have merged as we have just absolutely gorgeous greens coming in at the same time as we finally have loads of tomatoes. This isn’t on the website, but buy 3 cherry tomato pints and get 1 free this week! And then the roots! Rainbow carrots, rainbow beets, rainbow radishes. So much color, so little time to tell y’all all about it – you’ll just have to order and see for yourself. It’s amazing what just a reasonable amount of rain can do for the garden and this farmer’s spirits.

Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures: Put your veggie orders in online before 8pm Sunday. The website is a little buggy so if you don’t see a wide variety of items or you see items out of stock, try refreshing your browser. Also confirm on checkout that you have the correct number of each item in your cart. The two pickup windows are working well so far, so we’ll keep it going. Choose your pickup window while checking out online: 1-2pm and 4-6pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the beat up tan and red barn at the crest of the hill.

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Refresh

Ahhh, rain. I was hoping for a double meaning with the subject: first and most importantly, don’t forget to refresh the website when you click on this link to order veggies! Don’t ask me why, but if there are any website gurus out there that could set me straight please reach out!

The second meaning was supposed to be an insightful ode to this gloriously refreshing rain, which apparently all of a sudden is a thing again. However, I think I’ve fallen asleep 15-20 times in the writing of just the first paragraph. All of a sudden I’m struggling to keep up with the abundance…as it should be at the end of August.

If you’re looking for this farmer’s recommendations, the fall chard and kale look fantastic, and those beets – wow! The arugula and spicy salad mix are perfect right now and so good paired with apples, goat cheese, red onion and balsamic vinegar. We spent all day Friday putting up the above pictured bird netting for the heirloom tomatoes in the field – if that finally deters the crows, we may be in for a great fall after all. Fingers crossed! Either way we have enough of our amazing rainbow cherry tomatoes for all of Grafton’s humans and crows, so stock up.

Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures: Put your veggie orders in online before 8pm Sunday. The website is a little buggy so if you don’t see a wide variety of items or you see items out of stock, try refreshing your browser. Also confirm on checkout that you have the correct number of each item in your cart. The two pickup windows are working well so far, so we’ll keep it going. Choose your pickup window while checking out online: 1-2pm and 4-6pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the beat up tan and red barn at the crest of the hill.

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Grudge Match

Yay, rain! Sort of. We got a whopping 0.2″ of rain on Sunday, 0.12 Monday, another 0.2″ on Wednesday and a big at Oer today somehow since it rained north and south of us. 0.5″ down, 5″ to go to catch up to normal! To put that in perspective, we’d need 25 straight days like Sunday to just make it up to average for the last 1.5 months. And then we’d still be behind because it’d be the end of September at that point! I’m really only complaining because I love complaining about the weather, but it’s not enough to keep me from having to water the garden again today. And tomorrow. And the next…makes me wonder how long our well can hold on.

It’s certainly better than nothing, and it came at the perfect time as I’m trying to establish a ton of fall crops right now; loads of lettuce, kale, spinach, chard, radishes, turnips, spicy salad mix, carrots, and beets all went in over the last few days. However, it may be too little too late for most things. I had a very depressing field walk on Tuesday checking out the garden. This is typically the time of abundance, but we’re 5″ of rain below normal and it shows. Not only are the plants thirsty, but so are the animals. Crows in particular in this case. We had the driest summer on record my first year running the farm, and the same thing happened to the tomatoes to a degree. 

But not like this – I’ve picked over 100lbs of pecked tomatoes and about 5lbs of unpecked so far. And they’ve added sweet peppers and eggplant to their victims. Peppers and eggplant – really? My friend said crows hold a grudge and I do remember shooing them away from the recently seeded buckwheat cover crop not long before the pecking started. But ruining 100lbs of tomatoes seems a little bit of an overreaction! If this is a grudge match, I’m getting my tailfeathers kicked.

The same friend suggested a bird bath (can’t beat them, water them?), and feeding them peanuts and cat food. Since I don’t have a bird bath, I put out my extra cow waterer/self-filling tub of water with a nice perch on top and scattered cat food on it as a peace offering to hopefully save our tomato+ harvest. Fingers crossed it works, but they weren’t just pecking this week’s fruit – I’ve never seen solidly green tomatoes pecked before! Highly discouraging after all the work getting these plants ready for harvest (understatement of the year). Since I have no idea how much eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes the crows will leave me, they will be first come first serve on Monday. The good news is there are loads of cherry tomatoes right now, and lots of great veggies. Order link below.

Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures: Put your veggie orders in online before 8pm Sunday. The website is a little buggy so if you don’t see a wide variety of items or you see items out of stock, try refreshing your browser. Also confirm on checkout that you have the correct number of each item in your cart. The two pickup windows are working well so far, so we’ll keep it going. Choose your pickup window while checking out online: 1-2pm and 4-6pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the beat up tan and red barn at the crest of the hill.

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Reasonable

One word to describe the last four days: reasonable. If you push me for two words: completely reasonable. Mid 80s Thursday and Friday, and then this weekend! Sorry it’s not beach weather, but y’all have had plenty of beach weather this summer – this farmer weather is long overdue. It’s still not what I would choose after 1.5 months of drought (that would be 75 and a steady rain from morning till 5pm…oh how we need some rain), but I can work with and in this. But last week? Cruel and unusual. It was hilarious how the crew marveled at how comfortable it was on Thursday with a high of 85 – one of them said it felt like spring. I imagine if we had more days like these sprinkled through the summer, I wouldn’t be on my own in September….I felt like quitting a million times the last month myself. But the collective crew minds are made up at this point – I have a few leads on help, but please spread the word for me I need a farm(h)er to help me finish off the season! 

Lots of great veggies are coming in, though it’s not our typical August abundance with the lack of rain. Here is the link to order.

If you think I’m being dramatic about the drought, check out the copy and pasted intro to UMass Extension’s weekly VegNotes. Sounds a lot like my complaints, but the striking part is that these reports are aggregated are from the well-equipped huge farms in our state that have been in business forever, and are accustomed to the typical challenges of farming.

The prolonged hot and dry conditions are really starting to take a toll on plants and people alike. We are hearing reports from around the region of poor crop growth, dropping flowers and wilting leaves, and slow ripening of fruit, all leading to lower yields. Corn ears are not filling properly leading to shortages. There are also widespread reports of irrigation disasters like broken pumps, pumps pulling mud in low ponds, empty ponds not refilling, and acres of crops being tilled in because they cannot be adequately watered. On top of everything else we’ve gone through already this season, the drought feels like another heavy burden to carry.

Sorry to leave you on a sour note, but with it being so reasonable out there, I need to get some long overdue work done before the girls wake up. Oops, and now they’re up – there goes that thought!

Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures: Put your veggie orders in online before 8pm Sunday. The website is a little buggy so if you don’t see a wide variety of items or you see items out of stock, try refreshing your browser. Also confirm on checkout that you have the correct number of each item in your cart. The two pickup windows are working well so far, so we’ll keep it going. Choose your pickup window while checking out online: 1-2pm and 4-6pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the beat up tan and red barn at the crest of the hill.

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Cracks

This week sure was a roller coaster – it started out with so much promise and a very happy farmer here! A surprise rain storm brought over an inch of desperately needed rain, and that was BEFORE the tropical storm that was supposed to double our previous month’s rainfall. But y’all know how that went – buckets of wind but essentially no water. The little bit that did fall surely evaporated before the sun went down from all the wind. To put into context how much rain we have to make up, instead of 20% of our typical rainfall for the last couple months, we’re now at 25%. And no appreciable rain in the forecast. Bah humbug. I guess I should be happy that we seemed to be the only ones in Grafton who didn’t lose power, but it’s hard to crack a smile when cracks are spreading in the fields.

Despite the cracks in the field and in this farmer’s psyche, the garden is pumping out lots of great food. Tomatoes are starting to come in, we still have some great cut lettuce despite the heat, the carrots are getting monstrous, the next round of beets look absolutely fabulous, and I have a serious onion problem. Can you help? It involves eating loads of delicious red and sweet yellow onions! Not only do you benefit, but so do my poor shishito pepper plants that got blown over in the storm. I had this genius idea of interplanting a third (!) succession of fresh onions between the shishito peppers, not taking into account a tropical storm blowing them over. Now the onions stand in the way of the peppers being trellised back up, so be sure to add a few bunches of onions to your order….for the shishitos!

Another Monday, another heat wave. How many in a row is this? With highs in the 90s again, I’d like to encourage everyone to pick up their veggies early. We’ll have your orders binned up by noon, so bring bags to pack up your veggies (though we have plenty of brown bags if you forget). That said, there will still be a 4-6pm pickup window when I’ll be present – your veggies will be bagged up and kept in the fridge until pickup. Choose your pickup window on checkout (fancy!)

Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures: Put your veggie orders in online before midnight Sunday. The website has been a little buggy so if you don’t see a wide variety of items or you see items out of stock, try refreshing your browser. Also confirm on checkout that you have the correct number of each item in your cart. New this year, we’ll have your order binned or bagged up and available for you to pick up after 12 or between 4-6pm on Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the beat up tan and red barn at the crest of the hill.

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Double or Nothing

Happy anniversary to my wonderful wife, who not only has to endure my constant complaints about the weather, but now has to put up with my 4 year old’s rumblings who has taken up the habit. I can’t imagine navigating this crazy world with anyone else. 11 years!

Ok, good news first: we’re FINALLY getting some rain. The bad news: it’s coming via hurricane Isaias (not a typo). A hurricane isn’t exactly the way you want a dry spell broken….but I guess I’ll take what I can get?

Our neighbor (thanks Bruce!) has a rain gauge that’s automatically uploaded online, which makes for some fun (or not so fun in this case) comparisons. For the ENTIRE month of July, we got 1.4″ of rain including an Ofer streak the last 10 days. (To give you some context, last year we got a hair under 5″, which is just about right.) It’s been so bad that we have trees, perennial bushes, invasive vines, and summer loving weeds wilting!!

But it all ends Tuesday. We’re supposed to double July’s rainfall in one day, although I showed my 4 year old daughter the forecast and she literally just said “is that really going to happen? NO!” And even though my weather app says 90% chance of rain, she very well could be right as they’re saying the hurricane’s potential path is 200 some miles wide. So yea, double or nothing I guess.

With the irrigation running every day, the garden is hanging in there. The only crop that appreciates this dry weather as far as I can tell are the tomatoes. I’ve never seen a no spray green from head to toe tomato plant in the field in August, until this year. If nothing else, maybe we’ll have a massive tomato haul! Oh and onions somehow, since onions love the water. I have enough onions to feed all of Grafton I think, and now the third succession is coming on and never looked better. Peak tomato time is still a couple weeks off, but peak onion is now!

Not only are there tons of veggies available, but there are a number of delicious add-ons this week that you’ll just have to check out on the website because this newsletter is long enough!

Another Monday, another heat wave. With highs in the 90s again, I’d like encourage everyone to pick up their veggies early. We’ll have your orders binned up by noon, so bring bags to pack up your veggies (though we have plenty of brown bags if you forget). That said, there will still be a 4-6pm pickup window when I’ll be present – your veggies will be bagged up and kept in the fridge until pickup. Choose your pickup window on checkout (fancy!)

Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures: Put your veggie orders in online before 8pm Sunday. The website is a little buggy so if you don’t see a wide variety of items or you see items out of stock, try refreshing your browser. Also confirm on checkout that you have the correct number of each item in your cart. The two pickup windows are working well so far, so we’ll keep it going. Choose your pickup window while checking out online: 1-2pm and 4-6pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the beat up tan and red barn at the crest of the hill.

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Cooked

Ugh y’all! I’m still recovering from the last heat wave and another one’s coming right at us! 98 degrees on Monday? No thanks. This season (year?) has been one to forget. I’ve managed to keep the garden irrigated just enough that it’s still cranking out deliciousness…but who knows for how long, so get it while the getting’s good.

Sorry for the short newsletter this week but I fell asleep on the floor while putting the girls down for bed (and at nap), and I’ll have to be up at 430 to get anything done before being chased into the shade of our giant maple tree. It may be my favorite thing about this 1770 house (it also may be the ONLY thing I like about this 1770 house!). Without air conditioning, we’ve been spending pretty much all day lately under it. There and the neighbor’s pool while they’re away ha!

With high-90s in the forecast again for Monday, I’d like encourage everyone to pick up their veggies early. We’ll have your orders binned up by noon, so bring bags to pack up your veggies (though we have plenty of brown bags if you forget). That said, there will still be a 4-6pm pickup window when I’ll be present. If you know you won’t be here till later, let me know and we’ll bag up your veggies and stick as many as we can in the fridge.

Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures: Here’s the link to put your veggie orders in online before 8pm Sunday. The website has been a little buggy so if you don’t see a wide variety of items or you see items out of stock, try refreshing your browser. Also confirm on checkout that you have the correct number of each item in your cart. Pick up on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Your veggies will be in the long white garage on the left across from the beat up tan and red barn at the crest of the hill.

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Cursed

Hey y’all – your favorite parched farmer here. Parched you say? But we’ve had some rain lately you say? You must not live in Grafton, or at least what I call middle Grafton because we seem to have a force field blocking precipitation. I’ve seen it raining just to the north, south, east or west of us on multiple occasions. One time I literally saw it raining in all directions but blue skies overhead.

I’ve been showing anyone who will humor me the video I took of the weather radar from the other day. I could see and hear storm clouds approaching, so I went inside and checked the radar. ‘Oh good, looks like 30 minutes of solid rain and I’ll head back out to the fields.’ I twiddled my thumbs for a while and got lost in thought and before too long I realize it’s not actually raining. So I look at the radar again only to find out that there was this big system heading directly at us…and poof! It disappears immediately before Grafton. And then pops back up in Upton!

I happen to be on the newsletter list of another Massachusetts farm and laughed out loud when I read this: “With all the recent rain, sun, and heat, many crops are in a very vigorous and beautiful stage of growth right now”. What planet are they living on? Clearly not planet middle Grafton.

All griping aside, the garden actually looks fantastic right now, though the crops would be more accurately described as scrappy fighters than “very vigorous and beautiful”. The positive side of it never raining is that you can do something about it (irrigate), whereas if you’re getting too much rain, you can’t put a force field up. The negative side of it never raining is also that you can do something about it…meaning I’m back to my every 30 minute sprinkler dance on top of everything else and it’s exhausting. Hopefully it’s all worth it in the end. So far, the extra scrambling around seems to be paying off, but we’ll see if an extended drought combined with 96 degrees turns into a knockout punch for my some of my less scrappy fighters.

With mid-90s in the forecast for Monday, I’d like encourage everyone to get their veggies early. New this week, we’ll have your orders binned up by noon, so bring bags to pack up your veggies (though we have plenty of brown bags if you forget). That said, there will still be a 4-6pm pickup window when I’ll be present. If you know you won’t be here till then, let me know and we’ll bag up your veggies and stick as many as we can in the fridge. Here’s the link, order away!

Veggie Ordering and Pickup Procedures: Put your veggie orders in online before midnight Sunday. The website has been a little buggy so if you don’t see a wide variety of items or you see items out of stock, try refreshing your browser. Also confirm on checkout that you have the correct number of each item in your cart. With mid-90s in the forecast, I’d like to encourage everyone to get their veggies starting at noon. If you can’t make it till later in the day, let me know and we’ll bag it up for you and it will be available for you to pick up from 4-6pm Monday on the farm at 64 Potter Hill Rd in Grafton. Pickups are in the long white garage on the left across from the beat up tan and red barn at the crest of the hill.

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